How to Take a Vote in 5 Easy StepsChairing a meeting is harder than it looks. And at times parliamentary procedure doesn’t make that job any easier. Keeping track of what motion is on the floor and who to recognize next is tough. Taking a vote the proper way might seem like a luxury.

Well, as a professional, I’m here to tell you it’s not. Following a pattern and using consistent language to take a vote can do wonders to move your meeting along. Here’s a tried-and-true method.

Voting Step 1: Tell members that it’s time to vote.

Once discussion is over, give the members a heads-up that it’s voting time.

Say this: “There is no further discussion. We will now take a vote.”

Voting Step 2: Tell members what motion they’re voting on.

This is a necessary but often-skipped step. I know you think that members are so entranced by the floor debate and your flawless leadership skills that they know precisely what motion is on the floor for a vote. Let me tell you—they may be looking at you, but they’re thinking about their fantasy football team, not the meeting. So, help everyone out and remind members what they’re voting on before you ask them to vote.

Say this: “The motion on the floor is that we hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.” OR “We are voting on the following motion: that we hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.”

Voting Step 3: Ask members who is in favor of the motion and who is opposed.

You’ve told everyone it’s time to vote and what they’re voting on. Now, ask them to vote.

Say this: “All those in favor, say ‘aye.’ All those opposed, say, ‘no.’” OR “All those in favor, please rise. Be seated. All those opposed, please rise. Be seated.”

(P.S. Read my earlier post to make sure you don’t screw up this step.)

Voting Step 4: Announce the results of the vote.

Tell members who won.

Say this: “The ‘ayes’ have it, and the motion is adopted.” OR “The ‘nos’ have it, and the motion is not adopted.”

Voting Step 5: Announce the effect of the vote.

This step just clarifies what will happen as a result of the vote. All you have to do is tell people whether you will or won’t be doing what the motion said.

Say this: “We will hold a bake sale on January 31 to raise funds for the local homeless shelter.”

Maybe you read these steps and think, overkill—as in, this will take forever and complicate life.

Well, before you write it off, can you just give it a try? Obviously, it’s more words than just saying, “Ok, let’s vote. Who’s in favor? Awesome. Let’s have a bake sale.” But I promise, the extra words are worth it because they keep everyone on the same page, saving you the trouble of getting everyone caught up, especially the guy who was thinking about his fantasy football team. And the consistency of the wording sets your members at ease because they know what to expect. Process helps everyone.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Robert’s Rules says when something’s official, it needs to be official. Which means, the tellers report—we’re talking about the on-paper vote count—can’t just exist on the back of a spare copy of the agenda because you couldn’t find anything else to write on.

The tellers report is . . . (drumroll) . . . an official, organized report that goes in the minutes. I’ve talked in recent posts about how to count ballots. Today, I’m going to help you with how to collect that information and place it in a formal report that you can share with the members.

Step 1: Determine the number of votes cast.

Step 2: Identify any illegal votes.

Step 3: Count the ballots marked for each candidate or position.

Step 4: Fill out the tellers report.

There are four categories of information on a tellers report:

  • number of votes cast
  • number of votes necessary for election
  • number of votes received by each candidate or position
  • number of illegal votes and the reason(s) they are illegal

And, before we go any further, here’s some clarification: The number of votes necessary for election is more than half of the votes cast for a specific candidate or position (unless your bylaws say otherwise, of course).

So, let’s say you just held an election for president and vice-president, with both offices listed on the same ballot. Here’s what your tellers report should look like:

President
Number of votes cast 51
Necessary for election (majority) 26
Perfect Patty 30
Loser Larry 3
Mediocre Matt 15
Illegal Votes
Wanda Wannabe (disqualified and ineligible) 2
Two ballots folded together for Mediocre Matt 1

 

Vice-President
Number of votes cast 56
Necessary for election (majority) 29
Sam Second String 14
Chad Champion 33
Greta Good Sport 6
Illegal Votes
Illegible write-in votes 3

 

Two things to note here: The number of votes cast is specific to a candidate or position. Just because members vote for several offices on one ballot doesn’t mean that the number of votes cast is the same for each office. Members might vote for vice-president but not president.

And, the report shouldn’t include the number of members eligible to vote or the number of members abstaining.

Step 5: Give the report to the chairman.

One final word. Tellers don’t announce who won. The chairman does.

I get that you’re excited about the utter greatness of your tellers report, but don’t go running into the meeting room and spill the beans about who won. In parliamentary procedure, the announcement, like everything, is a specific process.

  • You tell the chairman that you’re ready to read the report.
  • On her cue, you read the report out loud to the group and then hand the report to the chairman. (Remember, the report doesn’t say who won. It just says the number of votes for each candidate.)
  • The chairman will then re-read the report out loud and end it by declaring the winner for each office.

 

A Quick Guide to Election by AcclamationIf you’ve attended any number of meetings or conventions where parliamentary procedure is used and elections are happening, you may have heard someone say, “I move that we elect by acclamation.” Or, post-election, someone may announce, “Peter Politicker is elected by acclamation!” At which point, everyone claps vigorously, and Peter Politicker gives an acceptance speech that is, of course, several minutes longer than necessary.

During Peter’s speech, you may be thinking, (a) Peter just joined our organization last year. How did he even get elected? (b) What in the world does “acclamation” mean? or (c) I wanted to vote “no.” Why didn’t the chair ask for the “no” votes?

I can’t help you with that first question, but if you want answers to b and c, read on.

“Acclamation” Means “Enthusiastic Approval”

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what “acclamation” means. According to Webster’s, “acclamation” is “a loud eager expression of approval, praise, or assent.” So, to elect by “acclamation” means to elect by a loud expression of approval – such as clapping.

Election by Acclamation Is Allowed When Only One Person Is Nominated

According to Robert’s Rules, election by acclamation is reserved for those times when only one person is nominated. Because there’s only one candidate and no other options, there’s no need to say, “All those in favor of Peter Politicker, say ‘aye.’ All those opposed, say, ‘no.’” Instead, the group can simply declare – by enthusiastic approval – that Peter is elected. In short, when a candidate is uncontested, the election becomes a declaration of a result – by clapping – rather than a traditional picking between options.

Be cautious though. The chair does have to make sure that in fact only one person has been nominated. And he can do this by asking those present at the meeting if there are any further nominations.

Election by Acclamation Is Not Allowed When the Bylaws Require a Ballot Vote

Before you get too excited about saving time at your next convention and electing everyone by acclamation, check your bylaws. If the bylaws require elections to take place by ballot, you cannot elect by acclamation. Electing by acclamation is a form of voice vote, and if the bylaws say, “Ballot vote required for elections,” then you have to use ballots and save the vigorous clapping for another day.

Election by Acclamation Means that No One Gets to Vote “No”

Here’s one more quick tip. If you want to look like you’re a parliamentary procedure pro (and who wouldn’t?), don’t ask for a “no” vote. Here’s why: You don’t want to give the group the option of not electing anyone at all.

Think about it this way. When at least two candidates are on the ballot, you check one box – for Peter Politicker or for Sally Smoothtalker. Because there’s not (and shouldn’t be) a “yes” and “no” box for each person, you vote against one by voting for the other. And the effect is that one of them is elected to office. But when only one candidate is nominated and a voice vote is taken, the only way to prevent a scenario where no one is elected is to just not give the group that option.

Here are the takeaways. Election by acclamation is a good thing. Use it when your bylaws don’t require a ballot vote and when only one person is nominated for office. And by all means . . . clap loudly and make Peter Politicker’s day.